Psychosis is a symptom of mental illness that is defined by a loss of contact with reality. More specifically, psychosis means experiencing things and believing that they are real when, in fact, they are not. Those who experience psychosis may have delusions and hallucinations. They may lose the ability to speak coherently or understand what others are saying to them. Additionally, their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors may be inappropriate and disconnected from the world around them without them being aware of this disconnection. These illnesses that involve psychosis can severely impair a person’s ability to relate to others and to be able to perform the basic tasks of daily living.
Characteristics of Psychosis
Psychotic symptoms include a number of unique features. If a person is suffering from psychosis, the following may be present:
Hallucinations are false or distorted sensory experiences that appear to be real and affect a person’s ability to correctly interpret the world around him or her. Psychotic patients often see, hear, smell, taste, or even feel things that are not really there.
Delusions are an unshakeable and irrational belief in something that is not true. Delusions are beliefs that defy normal reasoning and the person will remain firm in this belief even when there is overwhelming proof that can disprove those beliefs. For example, people experiencing delusions may believe that harm is imminent, that cues from the outside world are directed at them, that they possess exceptional abilities, or that an outside source is controlling their thoughts.
Disorganized thinking is when a person communicates thoughts or ideas that do not seem to make sense. This type of thinking is usually conveyed at a rapid rate because the individual tends to experience emotions or receive information at an extremely fast rate. On the other hand, some people with disorganized thinking may have slowed thought processes that cause them to have a hard time communicating their thoughts or ideas.
Abnormal physical behaviors can manifest differently in each person. Sometimes, catatonia, or an absence of movement, occurs, leaving the individual in a statue-like state and, in some cases, with the inability to speak. Other abnormal behaviors can include child-like playfulness, repetitious behaviors, staring, and echoing.
Causes and Risk Factors for Psychosis
Experts believe that a combination of several factors can determine if a person is susceptible to the development of psychotic symptoms. Since research has yet to determine the sole cause of psychosis, please consider the following notions:
Genetic: The major psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, that are known to be associated with psychosis, show patterns of family history and tend to be some of the most heritable disorders. It has been shown through extensive research these disorders may share a genetic cause. So individuals who have a family history of mental health disorders are at a higher risk for developing psychosis.
Physical: Changes in the structure of the brain and changes in dopamine levels, a chemical important for the communication between brain cells, are found in those who have psychosis. These changes in dopamine are directly related to hallucinations and delusions. Additionally, medical conditions that alter a person’s chemistry can lead to the manifestation of psychosis. For example, conditions like kidney disease, autoimmune disorders, neurological conditions, and medical illnesses that affect hormone levels and metabolic function can trigger the onset of psychotic symptoms.
Environmental: It is also believed that changes to a person’s environment can contribute to the onset of psychosis. Additionally, traumas, such as being the victim of a crime or extreme neglect, can render a person more susceptible to experience a psychotic episode or episodes.
- Pre-existing mental illness
- Undiagnosed mental illness
- Being the victim of a crime
- Lack of appropriate coping skills
- Limited social skills
- Family history of mental health conditions
- Substance use
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Having recently given birth
- Exposure to trauma, abuse, or neglect
Disorders Associated with Psychotic Symptoms
In some instances, psychosis will only last for a few days or weeks but, in other cases, it can be a chronic condition. Some of the disorders that are associated with psychosis include:
Schizophrenia is a disorder frequently associated with psychotic features and is characterized by hallucinations or delusions. This mental health condition often involves a significant amount of impairment as the psychotic symptoms regularly challenge a person’s ability to determine what is real and what is not.
Schizoaffective disorder is a mental illness in which a person experiences mood disturbances, similar to those experienced with bipolar disorder as well as symptoms frequently associated with schizophrenia. The combination of these two components in one disorder often produces an episode of psychosis.
Bipolar disorder involves episodes of mania and extreme elevations in mood. Sometimes, when a person is in the middle of a manic episode, he or she can experience symptoms of psychosis.
Medical conditions are known to affect a person’s physical health, but some conditions can change normal brain functioning and produce psychotic symptoms.
Certain forms of dementia can produce psychotic symptoms as the illness progresses. The most common forms of psychotic symptoms associated with advanced stages of dementia are paranoid delusions and visual hallucinations.
Signs and Symptoms of Psychosis
The experience of psychosis will vary greatly from person to person and each individual who experiences psychosis will have very different symptoms. The following signs may indicate that psychosis is present:
- Responding to stimuli that others cannot see or hear
- Impaired motor functioning
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of energy
- Disorganized thoughts
- Incoherent speech
- Peculiar behaviors
- Self-harming behaviors
- Sleep disturbances
- Flat affect
- Increased surge of emotions
- Loss of interest or enjoyment
- Not speaking very much
- Lowered levels of motivation
- Substance abuse
- Poor hygiene
- Suicidal thoughts of behaviors
Treatment for Psychosis
The treatment of psychosis at Rolling Hills’ treatment center is done on an individualized basis because the cause of the onset of psychosis can be the result of a variety of different causes. When someone is struggling with psychosis, it can cause a great deal of chaos and destruction in his or her life, which is why hospitalization is often the most appropriate treatment setting to start the healing process. In an inpatient treatment setting, like at Rolling Hills Hospital in Ada, OK, individuals can get the continued supervision they need in a safe, secure environment. When treating psychosis, medication is frequently used and an inpatient treatment clinic can get a patient on the right type of medication that will help decrease some of his or her distressing symptoms. Furthermore, qualified and experienced mental health professionals at Rolling Hills’ treatment center are there to provide a number of different therapeutic methods that will teach the patient the skills necessary to improve his or her overall quality of life.